Sex Assault Charge Dropped to Misdemeanor, Romanian man faces November trial

LACONIA — A sexual assault charge against a Romanian man was reduced from a felony to a misdemeanor when he was arraigned Monday in Laconia Circuit Court.
Miklos Szekely, 23, is now slated to stand trial on that charge in the Laconia court on November 9 at 1 p.m.
Laconia Police Department prosecutor James Sawyer aid that Szekely was originally arrested on a charge of aggravated felonious sexual assault of an 18-year-old female acquaintance during the evening hours of September 28 at his residence at 12 Maple Street in the Weirs. The charge was reduced to a misdemeanor sexual assault complaint of forced fondling when Szekely was arraigned by video Monday.
Sawyer, who said the defendant was booked to leave the country on a flight Monday night, sought to have Judge James Carroll order him to turn over his passport and set cash bail at $1,000.
But Public Defender Jesse Friedman sought to have the $6,000 cash bail reduced to personal recognizance bail so that the defendant could fly home to enroll in a master's degree program in agriculture. Friedman maintained that Szekely was not a flight risk and was an honor student who has stayed with the same family for the last three summers and had worked at a cottage colony and restaurant in the area.
Judge Carroll set cash bail of $6,000 but did not require the defendant to turn over his passport. He also ordered that the defendant have no contact with the alleged victim and that he stay away from the restaurant where she is employed.
An affidavit filed with the court says that Szekely used physical force during the incident after the victim had said that she would not consent and that he had placed his hand on her vagina and her breast and had prevented her from leaving the room when she attempted to do so.
Szekely, who was arranging for bail late Monday afternoon, was scheduled to fly to Romania later in the day. His name was no longer listed Tuesday on the Belknap County House of Corrections website as a detainee.

Judge Carroll honored for potecting free speech

MANCHESTER — Judge James Carroll of the fourth Circuit Court, Laconia Division, who dismissed charges against two citizens who were arrested while speaking at public meetings, has been honored with a Quill & Ink Award by the Nackey S. Loeb School of Communications for his staunch defense of the right to freedom of speech.

"It is an honor," Carroll said yesterday, "and I'm humbled by it. But, I was just doing my job. I'm pleased to accept the award on the part of every judge who are doing their jobs."

Police removed William Baer from a meeting of the Gilford School Board when, after challenging a teacher's decision to assign ninth grade students a book he deemed inappropriate, he continued speaking after being ruled out of order. Baer was charged with two counts of breaching the peace and one count of disobeying a police officer.

In dismissing the charges, Carroll described Baer's behavior as "impolite but not criminal." The case, he wrote offers "an excellent civics lesson, a perfect case for modeling free speech guarantees." Baer's arrest, the judge ruled "cause pause by the court as to the chilling, if not silencing, of a citizen by the state for actions which do not warrant a criminal arrest or conviction."

In Alton, Jeffrey Clay began claiming that the Board of Selectmen regularly flouted the Right-to-Know law in December 2013 and obeyed when asked to leave a meeting a year later. In January 2015, the selectmen adopted rules for for members of the public to follow when commenting at meetings. A month later, when Clay repeated his charges against the selectboard, he was ruled out of order and when he continued to speak was removed from the room, placed under arrest and charged with disorderly conduct by the police.

In dismissing the charges against Clay, Carroll found that "the silencing is nothing less than censorship of the defendant's criticism given at a time and place designated by the board itself for public input.." Furthermore, the judge noted that Clay "was acting within the very rules promulgated by the board as well as within his constitutional rights."

Carroll said it was "unusual" for a district court judge to have an opportunity to rule on a constitutional issue, let alone "to have lightning strike twice in the same place." He said that in both cases he considered the circumstances of the defendants before the court and the interests of the state and wrote orders protecting the right of individuals to speak freely before public bodies.

Carroll said that while his orders addressed the two particular cases before the court, he expected "they would have some deterrent effect. We need to ensure that our constitutional rights are kept alive and well."

Carroll was appointed to the bench by Governor John Lynch in January, 2011, during his second term as Belknap County Attorney. A 1969 graduate of the College of the Holy Cross, he received his law degree from Franklin Pierce Law Center in 1987. Long a mainstay of the local community, Carroll has been honored with its highest awards for community service the Norman Marsh Award for Leadership and the James R. Irwin Award of the Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce for Community Service.

The award will be presented at the 13th annual First Amendment Awards ceremony at the Capitol Center for the Arts in Concord on Thursday, November 12, at which Chris Matthews, the host of "Hardball" on MSNBC, will be the keynote speaker.

Pumpkin Festival schedule announced

LACONIA — Let It Shine, Inc., in partnership with Sterling Design and Communications and the Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce, this week announced the schedule for the Pumpkin Festival, which will be held downtown on Saturday, October 24, beginning at 10 a.m.

An hour before food and craft courts open and the ferris wheel spins at 10 a.m. , walkers and runners in the Runaway Pumpkin will cover their choice of five or ten kilometers , following a scenic course that includes the WOW Trail. Participants register at the Laconia Athletic and Swim Club at 827 North Main Street.

Lead by Cinderella's pumpkin coach from Story Land, the Children's Costume Parade, starting on Church Street and looping through Pleasant Street, Main Street and Beacon Street East, will begin at 12:30 p.m.

Canal Street will become PumpCANALy with a ribbon-cutting after the parade. Painted orange, the street will filled with carved pumpkins, lined with orange trees and lit by pumpkin street lights to serve as a venue for games, face painting, balloon artistry, caricaturists, magic shows, story telling, musical performers, photo booths and giant inflatable characters. All crowned by Nazzy & Mya's Block Party.

Pop the Pumpkin, Pumpkin Toss, Fish for Pumpkins and Pumpkin Ring Toss will be played throughout the day. Meanwhile, there will be pumpkin pinatas from 10:30 a.m. to 11 a.m., Donuts on a String from 11 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., musical pumpkins from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. and pumpkin pass from 2 to 2:30 p.m., hosted by the Laconia Kiwanis Club and Laconia High School Key Club. And from noon until 6 p.m. pumpkins will be rolling and candlepins falling at the pumpkin bowling alley at the Bank of New Hampshire.

The Pumpkin Express, operated by the Hobo and Winnipesaukee Scenic Railroad, will run excursions throughout the day of the festival, leaving the Railroad Station at Veteran's Square every hour on the hour between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. Tickets are $10 for adults and $7 for children and those two and younger ride free.

Meanwhile, more than three dozen schools in the Lakes Region have registered for almost 4,000 pumpkins. Registration for free pumpkins closes on Friday, October 9. Any business or individual wishing to sponsor a school should contact Ruth Sterling, the event manager, at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Pumpkins will be distributed from the parking lot at Vista Foods.

Welcome centers will be open at several entrances to downtown where visitors can log in their carved pumpkin or arrange to carve a pumpkin at the Community Carving Center at the Bank of New Hampshire.

The lighting of the pumpkins will begin at 4 p.m. The festival has been registered with Guiness as an attempt to break the world record for the most lit jack-o'- lanterns in one place of 30,581, which was set in Keene in 2013. With the jack-o'-lanterns lit at 6:30 p.m. the attempt to break the record will be made at 6:50 p.m. and the final count announced at 8 p.m.

When the festival ends at 8:30 p.m. the Pumpkin Dump Derby begins as competing teams race to collect the pumpkins within designated zones. The chosen charity of the first team to clear its territory will we awarded $1,000 and all teams that clear their territories will receive $100 for their favorite charity. The derby is sponsored by Casella Waste Systems, Inc.